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Teamwork saves life

Fast response by caring colleagues save life of researcher

His colleagues would normally describe Dale Osborne as a hard worker with a git-r-done attitude. But as he grasped the hands and then hugged each of the men who are responsible for him being alive today, Dale’s voice broke with emotion. “Thank you, man,” Dale said to Greg Schoeppner, Kevin Kendig and Mark Ruddell in turn, struggling to find better words to express his gratitude for the gift of life he can continue to share with his wife, Mary Ann, and son, John.

During the late morning hours of June 7, Dale was wrapping things up at work, eagerly looking forward to a week of rest and relaxation with his family in their new camper. He’d stopped by to brief UDRI Structural Integrity colleague Mark Ruddell about a few things before walking out. But as the men chatted in the Creep Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dale started to become light-headed and weak in the knees. Seconds later, as he lost consciousness and began to slide to the floor, Mark reached out and grabbed Dale to keep him from hitting hard. Dale was experiencing what is normally known as “sudden cardiac death.” But in his case, the completely unchoreographed actions of several colleagues who jumped in to help without thinking – but who performed as though they’d rehearsed for this moment their entire lives – kept death at bay.

While Mark – who discovered Dale had no pulse – positioned his colleague for CPR and worked to clear Dale’s airway, he yelled out for someone to call 911. The someone who jumped to make the call was Jenny Pierce, also a UDRI Structural Integrity employee. At the same time, a student ran into the hall to yell that there was a medical emergency – which brought AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate researchers Greg Schoeppner and Kevin Kendig quickly to their feet. Kevin ran for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Greg began chest compressions and breathing and Mark worked to get Dale’s shirt open for the defibrillator. Within seconds, Kevin returned with the AED, administered a shock, and Greg resumed compressions.

Only a minute or two passed before Dale not only regained breathing and consciousness, but became combative, thinking he was being mugged. As his rescuers calmed Dale, base emergency medical personnel arrived to transport Dale to the hospital. “I took it as a good sign that he had enough strength to try to push us off,” Mark said with a grin as he recalled the event weeks later.

Dale visited the lab recently to say thank you to his rescuers. Expressions of gratitude quickly turned into good-natured ribbing. Although it was not spoken, the fact that there was laughter in the hallway this day was not lost on those gathered to greet Dale, knowing the outcome could have been much different.

For Dale, the event is an iffy story. “If I had walked out the door, even into the hallway; if the EMTs weren’t located so close to our building; if everyone hadn’t reacted so quickly; I wouldn’t be here today. You know, I’ve always said this is the best place to work even before this all happened; but now, … ” Dale said as his voice trailed off, still struggling to find those words.

Aug. 12, 2013

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